Many people are afraid to come out with reports of harassment due to the fear of not being believed, not knowing how, and sometimes because they’re not sure if they truly qualify as a victim. That’s why this article aims to inform those afraid and uncertain about how to recognize and report sexual harassment at work.
Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Harassment
Understanding the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment can mean the difference between a civil case or a criminal case. Sexual assault occurs when the alleged perpetrator takes action without the consent of the victim and is considered an egregious criminal offense. This can look like attempted or achieved rape, unwanted touching, or the forcing of sexual acts.
Sexual harassment, on the other hand, looks very different and is often settled in civil court unless evidence of a crime has been found.
How To Identify Sexual Harassment
As stated previously, one of the main reasons why sexual harassment goes unreported is because the victim fears that what they experience doesn’t qualify as sexual harassment or they are being overly sensitive. However, let’s not mince words—if a joke, statement, or action of inappropriate sexual nature made you feel uncomfortable, then that is sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment often looks like standing too close, inappropriate sexual remarks, sexually suggestive pictures, videos, language, and or gestures. You should be able to feel safe at your job, and if you don’t, that is a problem, as a hostile work environment can greatly affect a person’s mental health and overall livelihood.
How To Report Sexual Harassment
If you feel safe doing so, you should first confront your harasser, as they may genuinely not know they’re making you uncomfortable. If this does not stop the behavior, it should then be reported to HR.
To properly report sexual harassment, you must first view the employee guidelines of your workplace. Most of the time, they have policies and procedures for reporting incidences such as sexual harassment. If they do, you must follow these guidelines, paying close attention to deadlines. Next, compile a paper trail containing any evidence pertinent to your complaint and report the offense.
It is important to note that if you plan to press charges, you must report to the EEOC within 45 days of the alleged incident.
Knowing how to identify and report sexual harassment in the workplace can help you build confidence and take back your power. Remember, if an abuser wants you to stay quiet, do the opposite—be loud and speak out.